Israel Business Today, July 29, 1994 v8 n387 p19(1). Title: High expectations for stroke drug. (HU-211) Author: Barry Chamish Abstract: Hebrew University Professor Raphael Mechoulam has developed a drug that could limit the damage caused by head injuries and strokes. HU-211 was obtained from cannabinoid molecules in marijuana. The drug tests on animals have shown that when injected immediately after a head injury or stroke, the cell damage is limited to the injured area. No toxic side effects have been in evidence. The drug will be marketed by Israel pharmaceutical company, Pharmos. Subjects: Pharmaceutical industry - Product development Stroke (Disease) - Drug therapy Companies: Pharmos Corp. - Product development People: Mechoulam, Raphael - Research SIC code: 2834 Business Collection: 80U1244 Electronic Collection: A15776214 RN: A15776214
Full Text COPYRIGHT Israel Business Communications 1994
Rehovot-based pharmaceutical firm Pharmos [NASDAQ: PARS) has high hopes for a drug that may limit the damaging effects of strokes and head injuries. The drug, HU-211, was developed as a result of research into the molecular structure of marijuana conducted for the past three decades by Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of the Department of Natural Products and Medicinal Plants at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Mechoulam earned international renown in 1964 when, in collaboration with Prof. Yechiel Gaoni, he became the first scientist to isolate and synthesize the active ingredient in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Over the past three decades, Mechoulam has been designing cannabinoid molecules in the belief that beneficial properties would be discovered.
Substance Stops Brain Cell Death
In 1990, preliminary tests on a molecule, now called HU-211 (the HU stands for Hebrew University) turned up a promising characteristic for treating patients suffering from strokes and head injuries. When the brain is traumatized either by head injury or by a stroke, cells die, releasing an overabundance of a substance called glutamic acid. The glutamic acid binds to cell receptors, opening channels into the cell which allow the free entry of calcium. The calcium triggers a complicated chemical reaction that ends in the cells' death. Once these cells die, they release a barrage of glutamic acid, and the killing process continues. The process, called spreading edema. often leads to the paralysis or death of the victim. The damage caused by lack of oxygen during a stroke or head injury could be contained if the spreading edema could be curtailed. After four years of development by Pharmos, HU-211 seems to do just that.
The drug acts as a shield for healthy cells by binding to cell receptors and blocking the opening of channels to glutamic acid. If it is injected quickly after a stroke or accident, neurological damage is restricted to the immediate region of the initial cell death. Animal tests conducted over the past year by Dr. Esther Shohami of Hebrew University have been very encouraging. Rats with head injuries were injected with HU-211, and the spread of the edema was markedly reduced. Furthermore, no toxic side effects were observed.
Potentially Enormous Market
The potential market for the drug is enormous, in part because it is essentially without competition. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in adults, claiming a million victims worldwide every year, while head injuries are the number one killer of adolescents. Every day, 400,000 people around the world suffer brain damage from accidents.
Mechoulam believes that every ambulance will eventually keep a supply of HU-211 on hand as standard emergency treatment for head trauma. Pharmos shares similar expectations for what may turn out to be a wonder drug. -- End --
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